CHARLOTTE, NC — Though Governor Andrew Cuomo is often named as a potential presidential contender in 2016, he has exerted tremendous effort to have a low-key presence at the Democratic National Convention and generally prefers cooperating with Republicans rather than criticizing them. However, in an address before the New York delegation’s breakfast to the DNC this morning, Mr. Cuomo launched an uncharacteristically direct attack on the GOP and gave a stirring defense of President Barack Obama.
Mr. Cuomo began his speech thanking the other politicians in attendance and the convention’s organizers before quickly pivoting to the presidential election.
“One more thank you,” he said. “To a man who has stood by the State of New York for about four years. He was there for the State of New York when it was teetering on the brink, like so many other states when this nation was teetering on the brink. A new man came to office, a new leader, a new president, and he’s been a phenomenal partner to the State of New York helping us through this transformation and these difficult times and let’s thank President Barack Obama for what he’s done for our state!”
Standing in front of a sign that subtly read, “”NEW YORK STATE PROGRESSIVE CAPITAL OF THE NATION’,” Mr. Cuomo went on to mock the Republican Party’s convention, which took place last week in Tampa.
“Last week, I admit I was peeking at the Republican convention. I found it amusing actually, it was great theater. That’s what it was, it was theater,” said Mr. Cuomo. “Watching them made my day, I’ll tell you the truth. You know, it was all about balloons…and generalities. We used to call it smoke and mirrors, there were no real plans, there were no details, there was no road map.”
Though he dismissed the RNC as lacking substance, Mr. Cuomo said the Republican presidential ticket has had one surprising “moment of frankness and candor”–the selection of Congressman Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate. Though Mr. Romney has largely disavowed Mr. Ryan’s signature achievement, his budget proposal, Mr. Cuomo said the Ryan budget actually reveals “a paint-by-numbers picture of the America they want to bring to us.”
“And that picture is a foreign picture to me, my friends,” Mr. Cuomo said.
Mr. Cuomo characterized Mr. Romney’s campaign as being based on the premise President Obama “created” the nation’s economic woes, but he described this notion as “absurd” and said the President had instead “inherited” the poor economic climate. He then went on to criticize another key component of the Republican campaign–Mr. Romney’s tax policies.
“The second thing they say is, well, we have to reduce taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Why? Because, then we will unleash the American entrepreneurial spirit, that great spirit they talk about all the time,” said Mr. Cuomo adopting a theatrical tone and slowly, dramatically enunciating his words. “The American spirit will come out and the American spirit will make everything OK. The American spirit has a special wand and he will wave the wand. … When we reduce the taxes on the wealthiest Americans, that makes the spirit come to us.”
After depicting the Republican tax plan as a fairy tale, Mr. Cuomo described what he thinks would really accompany tax cuts for wealthy Americans.
“When you cut taxes on the rich there is no spirit that appears. The rich people get more money, that’s what happens when you cut taxes on the rich,” he said.
Mr. Cuomo explained that President Obama has the “opposite philosophy” that doesn’t involve solving the nation’s financial woes “on the backs of the middle class.” He said the members of the New York delegation know President Obama’s economic policies are the correct path for the country because they have seen the results of “progressive” policies firsthand under his leadership in the Empire State.
“We know the President is right and we know he can do these things, because we are doing these things in New York! We know we can find savings in Medicaid and still give people the healthcare they need, because we’re doing it in New York! We know you can tax people fairly, not a flat tax, not everyone-pays-the-same-tax rate, which is what we had in New York, but a simple premise that says this: The more you make, the more you should pay. That’s fair, that’s progressive, the tax code that we just put into place in New York.”
“We know these things can be done,” Mr. Cuomo continued, before referencing his signature progressive accomplishment–legalizing same sex marriage in New York. “And we know we can fight discrimination, and we can end discrimination and we can make discrimination a past transgression rather than a present injustice, and we can make a statement as a nation that everybody’s relationship is the same, and everybody’s love is the same. And whether you’re gay or straight, in the eyes of the law, your relationship and your love is equal.”
To a huge round of applause, Mr. Cuomo urged the rest of the country to follow New York’s example on gay marriage.
Mr. Cuomo closed by stressing the urgency of this election and the need to reelect Mr. Obama to solve the problems ahead.
“These are two very different philosophies. Two different outcomes for this nation. Two very different paths that we will follow,” said Mr. Cuomo. “This is an election where our country is going to have to take a very hard look in the mirror. This is a gut check election for this country. We have to be very clear about the choices.”
As he finished, Mr. Cuomo raised his voice to full volume and asked the crowd whether they think the Democrats’ progressive approach is the correct path forward.
“We’re going to go to this nation, and we’re going to say, ‘Do you believe in the politics of inclusion? Do you believe in fairness for all? Do you believe that the opportunity for all that this nation was founded on, is alive and well? And our answer is, ‘Yes!’” he said, nearly shouting. “Do you believe in interconnection? And do you believe in interrelation? And do you believe that I am connected to you, to you, to you and there’s a cord that connects us all?”
The audience rose and gave a standing ovation as Mr. Cuomo finished his call to arms. He then walked off the stage and exited the outdoor tent where the event was held accompanied by his girlfriend, Sandra Lee. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver followed closely behind them.
Mr. Cuomo’s breakfast speech was only officially announced last night after reports of a cancelled fundraiser and aborted plans for a speech closer to the convention site that left multiple delegates we spoke with confused about whether the Governor would make an appearance at the DNC. Though Mr. Cuomo didn’t take any questions from reporters after his speech, Politicker managed to catch him as he left the breakfast to ask why his speech seemed to have been initially cancelled.
“It wasn’t,” the Governor replied tersely.
Afterwards, aides explained that the other speech, which was to take place at the NASCAR Hall of Fame adjacent to the DNC was simply rescheduled and relocated for logistical reasons.